Can You Afford to Live Off-Campus?

Can you afford to move off campus? 

For some students, there is no reason to live off campus. New parking restrictions, coupled with safety concerns and the efficiency of meal plans, mean that many students have little or no reason to leave the dorm life system.

However, many students see moving off campus at the University of Notre Dame as the first step into the real world of money management and housing. It affords more freedom and less restrictions on their daily lives.

“I wanted to move off campus so that I could become more independent and learn how to care for a home before entering the real world,” says Alyssa Hummel, ’15. “In college, at least you have the buffer of the Office of Housing to fall back on.”

For those wishing to be a little more removed from the bubble that life on campus often creates, there is oftentimes the question of affordability when it comes to living off campus.

Many students who receive financial aid express confusion about the logistics behind their aid packages, especially in regards to student housing.

“When I didn’t get an RA position, I had to try an find alternate housing option,” says Jocelyn Tellez-Amado’15. “My mom thought the off campus housing price option seemed high.”

“I was going to have to pay for housing either way, but what it came down to was analyzing the numbers to figure out what option made the most sense. Understanding that the financial aid given was not affected by where I lived was key,” said Jocelyn.

In reality, by understanding the numbers behind her aid package, Jocelyn was able to find affordable off-campus housing and actually save money her senior year. Many students often encounter a refund of extra money when they choose to live off-campus. 

Before you make your decision, be sure to familiarize yourself with the University of Notre Dame’s housing, financial aid, and student account websites to help you better understand your housing costs.

Here are some basic tips when deciding whether moving off campus is right for you: 

1. Know your costs.

The average cost of attendance at the Univeristy of Notre Dame for the 2014-2015 school year is $62, 461. The cost of tuition and fees is $46, 237. 

If your financial aid package totals $56, 800, that means that after subtracting tuition and fees out of your aid package ($56, 800 - $46, 237), you can expect about $10, 563 of aid to put towards your housing. While the number doesn't always come out to exactly what you calculate depending on different cost factors, you can be sure that unless your financial circumstances change drastically between school years, you can count on getting credited an amount very close to what you calculated. 

And if you are expecting a refund on your financial aid, be sure to fill out this form before your funds dispursement on the first day of classes. 

2. Be realistic about your housing expectations. 

For example, you don't have a reliable means of transportation, it might be best to live close to campus. If one of your potential housemates has vastly different financial circumstances than you do, make sure you are open about your finances and be realistic. Make sure to leave room for "error" when it comes to planning your expenses.

There are many different options to choose from when selecting off-campus housing. Most landlords/housing developments are screened by the University of Notre Dame before providing service to students. Check out the University's "Campus Connector" site regarding off-campus housing. 

3. Create a budget.

Having an outlay of your expenses each month helps you stay on track to where your money is going. It will help keep you aware of what you can afford- and what you can't. If it looks like living off-campus is going to cost you and your family more than staying on campus, your decision might be made for you. 

From personal experience, I was able to assess my financial aid in order to both life comfortably off campus and rent a car for transportation. While my calculations were not exactly in line with what I expected from my financial aid packege, I maintain campus employment to help cover my costs and am scrupulous about expenses like groceries and gas. 

For me, and many others, the importance of learning real-world housing skills outweighs the security of living on campus. I love the sense of pride I get from maintaining my own finances and living independently. It may not be easy, but the crash course in the real world is worth it.  


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